James Long scored a goal just 2 minutes, 24 seconds into sudden death overtime and lifted the John Burroughs Bombers to an amazing 5-4 comeback win over Francis Howell North in the Mid-States Hockey Founders Cup Championship game Friday night at Hardees Iceplex in Chesterfield.
Burroughs (9-12) which defeated Francis Howell last season for the Founders Cup, fell behind 1-0 and 4-1 before rallying with three third period goals to force overtime.
“We sort of came together at the end of the year,” Burroughs coach Andy Leonard said. “We knew we had a real solid defense and we knew we had a couple of lines that we could keep pushing and pushing and we could score.”
At 12:59 of the first period, Howell North (5-15-1) got a goal from senior forward Tyler McAtee to go ahead 1-0.
Sophomore forward Zach Zlepper got the Bombers even with a goal making 1-1 with 13:18 left in the second period.
But the Knights responded with an offensive flurry keyed by McAtee’s second goal with 11:48 left in the period. Bryce Longmore then pumped in a pair of goals between the 11 and three minute mark of the period, pushing Howell North to seemingly safe 4-1 lead.
Burroughs finally got to Howell North standout junior goalie Kavan Johnson in the third period.
Ari Padda scored a power play goal off an assist from Tyler Bernstein and Matt Fort with 5:35 left.
Then Fort scored with just 1:05 left in regulation and the Bombers were a long way from done.
“”You could see that when they got to 4-3 that they were on us big time,” Francis Howell North coach Paul Bruemmer said. “The momentum got with them and we just kind of got unraveled toward the end.”
In a final frantic final minute of regulation, Bernstein sneaked a shot past Johnson off a feed from Fort to tie it at four even and force the sudden death overtime period.
In overtime, Long a sophomore normally playing defense for the Bomber, switched back up front to forward and sent the Burroughs bench and fans into a frenzy as he picked up a puck off the boards, skated into the Knights zone and backhanded home the game-winner for Burroughs.
“I saw Teddy Martin get the puck, he chipped off the boards and I saw nothing but clean ice and I just started going to my backhand since my forehand wasn’t working and I one-timed it,” Long said. “It’s everything, the coaching staff, they put in time and effort and there was nothing more I wanted to do than help give them a win.”
Winning the Founders Cup title for the second straight season was something that hardly seemed possible for the Bombers at mid-season but senior captains Bernstein and Padda said that the team never made excuses and refused to settle for anything less than a championship.
“This year has meant a lot more because we didn’t have the same talent but it wasn’t just one man but just good teamwork and working together to get the W,” Bernstein said. “At the end of last year when we lost all the seniors, so I was a little doubtful at the start of the season but as the season progressed, I really felt this team could win again,” Padda said.
Howell North, won the Wickenheiser Cup last March over Fox and was just a few minutes away from winning the Founders Cup game. But Bernstein and Long’s heroics left the Knights feeling a bit empty.”It was a good and fun year,” Bruemmer said. “I wish we could have had a little bit better finish, but it didn’t happen.”